2. Meet the family...Mature

The three bedroom rental was small and crowded with nine people living in it. With four females in the house, the boys were smart to give two of the small rooms to us, two girls to a room. I shared with Willow. Faline and Brooke were across the hall. Leo, Rusty and Salem shared the last and largest room, occasionally switching off with the other two, Shade and Jasper, who slept in the living room.

We kept it pretty bare, just a few blankets and pillows and the basic necessities. With only three incomes at the moment, all out money went to bills and once night fell, two of us went hunting. Tonight was Leo and I.

But for now, the sun was shining and I waited for Willow, Shade and Jasper to return home.  Sunning myself on the bench in the fenced back yard, I rested for my night of hunting, my tabby fur soaking up the summer sun.

Rusty lay on the ground next to the bench, the dark, russet fur of the Irish Setter shimmering in the sunlight. I hadn't realized that no matter what your natural hair or eye color was it carried over, which is why I always had such a ghostly form, my eyes and hair were naturally a bright, flawless silver.

During the day, the younger members stayed home, disguised as animals to avoid attention being drawn to the house. Today, Leo, Rusty, Faline, and Brooke were home and Salem was out trying to find a job. The rule was  that if you graduated from  high school you had to find a job. I had one more year and Rusty started in two weeks at a little shop down the road.

This little family was so organized and worked so easily together I almost felt out of place some times without knowing the routine. Hunting and cleaning I had gotten used to, but what happened once school started again? How would I fit in then?

Faline cam trotting out of the house, her sleek, light brown form so graceful and little a normal person couldn't tell her apart from a random stray cat. She jumped up on the bench next to me, settling down to wash a paw. "Salem will be home soon." She mewed.

Stretching, I sat up. "What time is it?

"Almost four"

Rusty yawned and raised his graceful head. "Already? Really?"

The little cat nodded, her dark brown eyes bright.

"When is Willow going to get home?" I asked.

"Not until seven...."  Leo grumbled as he waslked outside, his tawny fur turning fiery in the sunlight. "She said she has to cover for one of the other girls on the late shift."

Willow worked at an all night diner near the freeway just outside of town. She was always covering for others when she could. She and the two older boys worked so hard all the time for us. I just wished i could do more for them.

Brooke's dark red fur shot out of the house, tackling her brother, growling and biting. The two dogs went rolling, wrestling through the green grass.

Leo rolled his eyes as he came to sit next to me, his long and lanky ferret form a nice change from his  usual golden lab. "I wish Shade would get home soon."

"He will be... he gets off at five tonight..." Faline told him sweetly. It was no secret that the little thirteen year old had a giant crush on Leo.

"And Jasper will be home anytime now!" Brooke panted. pinned by her brother.

Five sets of ears shot forward as we heard the front door open. Faline and Brooke raced through the back door, Leo and I following at a slower pace.

Jasper was waiting in the living room, Salem by his side. Shifting as I walked into the room, I stood back as everyone greeted the two. It was always interesting to watch how the family reacted to each other.

Faline hugged her brother around the waist, her smile splitting her face from ear to ear. Rusty immediately asked how Salem's search went, while Brooke smiled up at the two older boys. I liked playing the family ghost, just watching.

Suddenly, Shade burst in, locking the door behind him, his eyes wide and wild. "They found us."

"What?" Jasper shook his head. "How?"

"I'm not sure, but there are Hunters everywhere. We have to get out of here."

I watched the panic spread into each set of eyes, gray, hazel, brown, green, blue and amber. They were scared. And they had a right to be. The Hunters were fierce and very well equipped with weapons.

Shade wandered around, picking up little things and stuffing them in a small ratty bag, Willow's watch, Faline's journal, Rusty's hat. "We have to leave. Gather up only things with meaning and get them in one of the bags."

Jasper grabbed a second bag and started picking up pictures and taking them out of their frames. "How could they have found us?"

"I don't know..." Shade murmured, shoving two cell phones  in his bag.

"What about Willow?" Everyone froze at the sound of my voice. They weren't used to hearing it at times like this. but I had to say something.  "We can't just let her come back here, not when it's not safe."

"She's right," Jasper's eyes got dark. "Willow is part of this family. We can't risk her safety."

"Then what do we do?" Salem growled, his arm around Faline's slight shoulders. "We can't stay and wait for her, that would put us in danger. And we can't go to her work, they would follow."

Jasper nodded. "I'll go." He looked at Shade. "We meet at the caves, ok? I'll go wait for Willow and meet you there."

Shade looked grave. "Are you sure? It's dangerous."

Jasper gave him a wicked smile. "They've never dealt with something as vicious as Willow when you threaten her family."

Shade laughed a little. "You're right." He nodded." The caves. If your not there by midnight, we'll move."

"Sounds good." Jasper patted his shoulder. "We'll be there by eleven, I promise." With that, Jasper became a mouse, slipping out the back door and through the fence.

"He'll be ok, right?" Brooke whimpered.

Rusty hugged her. "We can hope, Brooke.... We can hope."

I clutched at the only material item I kept, my locket with a picture of my mother and father. I wonder if they hoped I was ok?


The End

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